Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Choosing sides in NLR mayoral race

Posted By on Wed, Jun 13, 2012 at 9:31 AM

SELECTIVE MEMORY: Scott Miller cites an example.
  • 'SELECTIVE MEMORY': Scott Miller cites an example.
Scott Miller, the civil engineer, North Little Rock School Board member and erstwhile Dogtown digital journalist, made a post on Facebook today that says the race to succeed Pat Hays as mayor may be one of the hottest races of the season. Indeed.

Hays has designated aide Joe Smith as his successor.

State Rep. Tracy Steele also is running for the job.

Smith is a solid member of the city business establishment. Steele has a powerful voter base. He's black and Smith is white in a city that is moving toward majority black population. Race is relevant because it's a rare election where voting isn't polarized on racial terms when candidates differ racially. Steele will clean up in the black community. If he makes sufficient inroads elsewhere — and he's made some already from Hays fatigue— he might win.

So Miller's knock on Smith has some significance. It's particularly interesting given the careful dance that's been done in recent years between competing financial and political interests of the mayor and the School District, which recently won a huge tax increase for a complete rebuilding of city schools. A School District lawsuit threw a monkey wrench (properly) in Hays' plan to tap school tax revenues for downtown redevelopment. Said Miller:

I recently saw the video you can find below where Mayor Hays to no one's surprise endorses Joe Smith for Mayor. Joe is a truly nice guy and the race will be a good one for the City. My problem with the endorsement is the selective memory Mayor Hays uses in justifying Joe's experience with the construction of the ballpark. Mayor Hays says "I handed the baseball off to Joe Smith and the project was completed on time, in budget"

Last year on April 18th in an article on the ballpark, the Dem/Gaz reported " An overrun of more than $6 million in construction costs led the city to take out a loan to pay off the rest of the debt" Mayor Hays was quoted in the same article ""I feel very strongly that we made the right decision to spend those additional dollars to build the ballpark right...."

For the math challenged that's about an 18% overrun, certainly not on budget. A note for all the candidates...what the City needs is more transparency, more openness and more everyday citizen involvement. Not more of the same and certainly not more selective memory.

Transparency would include, I hope, a full recitation of how Tracy Steele raised money for the private foundation that has paid him a hefty salary. Among the contributors were major corporate interests with issues before the legislature in which Steele sits.

UPDATE: Walter "Bubba" Lloyd Jr., a businessman who'd talked about running for mayor, says he won't run and will support Steele. A vote for Smith is a vote for business as usual, Lloyd said. I think Lloyd is right that the election will, in many ways, be a referendum on Hays. A lot of people like what's happened under his leadership, not including the recent sales tax proposal.

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